Developing The “uBuntu” Spirit

by Patrick Liew on August 27, 2018

Developing The “uBuntu” Spirit

I spent some time during the last two weeks of December 2012 in South Africa and Swaziland.

Before I left for the trip, I made it a point to read up about these countries and especially their way of life.

I found it hard to accept many of their beliefs, customs and practices.

However, they have some philosophies that resonated in my heart and mind.

Let me share one of them with you.

In the locals’ traditional worldview, there is a belief which they termed as ‘uBuntu.’

In essence, they believe that you cannot be a human on your own. It is the people around you that makes you a human.

In other words, you cannot live a good life apart from your community.

You can only achieve your highest fulfillment while working with and serving your community and society.

For example, you cannot be an entrepreneur without customers and other stakeholders. You are also not a leader if you don’t have followers.

In short, you can only live well because others make it possible for you.

On a bigger scale, all humans, regardless of creed, custom, colour, culture, and country of origin belong to the same universal family.

Connected and bonded through an obligation of sharing and a responsibility of giving to one another.

This sense of interdependence build ‘simunye’, a word in Zulu which means solidarity.

Solidarity can help in the betterment of a community.

From the ‘uBuntu’ perspective, even colleagues in the company should be treated as brothers and sisters of the extended family.

Everybody has a responsibilty to look after each other and work effectively together for a greater good.

The workplace belongs indirectly to employees because of its importance in supporting their livelihoods and the vested interests they have for each other.

Therefore, there should be a greater sense of ownership, enthusiasm and loyalty in the company.

There is another ‘uBuntu’ practice which touched me. It does not accept the idea of orphans.

The responsibilty of parenthood does not reside on just the father and mother of a child but on the whole community of adults.

When the natural parents of a child are not around, the fathers and mothers in the community will share to take over their roles and responsibilities.

Ensure that the child is not being abandoned and will provide for his needs and personal development.

I like the ‘eBuntu’ concept of family because it takes on a wider meaning and embodies the spirit of ‘umoja’ (togetherness).

It has the potential to include the people who are around us as well as all of humanity.

There is a Chinese saying, Within the four seas, all men are brothers. (四海之内皆兄弟).

It conveys a similar meaning that all of us are part of the same family. We should look out and care for one another.

If we embrace humanity as family, we will be able to resolve many of the conflicts, controversies and challenges facing humankind.

What do you think?


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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